Compact Workbench Build

This is an Instructable showing you how to build your own compact workbench. This workbench is perfect for college students or people living in a temporary living situation with little room to work on hobbies. Living in a small apartment, I always found it difficult to work on electronics projects and small woodworking projects in my living room. I decided that I needed a space to work and keep my tools. When thinking of where to put the workbench I decided that it should go in the closet and therefore needed to be a custom size and have lots of light. These were criteria I used when starting to plan out the build.

Step 1: Build-Framing

Since this a a custom build, it will be difficult to tell you the amount of materials and cost of the materials you will need. I have to give credit to for their workbench plans. I customized these plans to fit my needs; as should you. I've posted the link below.

Tools I used for the build:

Circular Saw
Framing Square
Cordless Drill
Wood clamps
Measuring Tape

Use the material list on this link to get an estimate.

Step 2: The Hood

As I mentioned in the beginning, Light was important. I built a hood to keep light out from the closet so that there would be no glare on the computer monitor I planned to put on the desk, but still needed directional light to work on projects so I purchased a battery powered rotating light bracket from Harbor Freight and mounted it to the hood. 

Step 3: Installation-Adding the Hood

I'm a bit embarrassed about the installation part. The bench didn't fit like I planned it so I had to take my whole closet rack out to get it to fit. It turned out that I did not adjust for these little protruding pieces of metal that were sticking out from the end of the shelves. I'm glad I did it though, because I have a larger surface area to work on. It will just be difficult for when the bench needs to move. 

I first installed the bench into the closet and then attached the hood. Photos are not included for adding the plywood to the top and sides but you can see this in the end photo on the next page. Photos of the workbench installed can be seen above.

Step 4:

I put some final touches on the workbench by adding electrical strips that I purchased from harbor freight. I ran extension cord underneath and mounted it to the frame on the underside with fencing staples. DISCLAIMER: if you build this, do not pinch extension cord or any live mains wire with staples. This could ground out and cause a fire. Keep staples loose and not pinching wires. 

I only zip tied the outlets to the legs of the bench but plan to mount them some day. I really like that I can cut the power of the outlets with the switches.

Some things I would like to do to improve this bench:

1. Add pegboard and hooks for tools on the sides and back of the hood
2. Put a keyboard holder under the frame of the desk

Above, are pictures of the outlets & the finished bench with all of my tools (messy bench). The computer was the final installment. I wasn't going to put one in there, but I found it hard to view electronic schematics and to use Cadsoft Eagle on my laptop so I needed a monitor back there.

I hope this was informative, and it inspires you to build your own closet work space bench! This wasn't an extremely informative Instructable, so if you have any questions just ask.

Step 5: Pegboard Upgrade

*-------------- Update: March 3, 2013 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The materials will vary on the dimensions of your build and the variations from my build so I cannot give you accurate dimensions and materials.

I bought a 4' x 4' sheet of pegboard at Lowes which I highly recommend over buying a 4'x8' sheet if materials aren't required (very affordable, $10.00). I also purchased the hardware for the pegboard which included various shaped hooks and shelf arms. This project required 2- 1x1x8' furring strips, 1'' finishing nails, and I used 1/2'' screws to secure the pegboard to the furring strips.

As I stated previously in this Instructable, I am a graduate student living in an apartment with little space to conduct my projects.  In using this closet workbench over the past few months I discovered a small issue; all of my most used tools for  electronics, woodworking and automotive belonged in a tackle box for storage. A pattern soon developed where piles of tools would accumulate on the bench because it was difficult to put the tools back in the tackle boxes. When doing automotive work I would load up a mechanics bag and after completion, set the bag on the bench. 

This method of working was unorganized and required cleaning up after each project. I've found in my experience with working in tight spaces that the best thing to do is design your system so that things easily go back into storage or they simply won't. 

This leads me to my addition of pegboard to this project. In previous photos you will notice that the hood was built to control the light in the work area and provide storage above. I secured 1 x 1 furring strips on the inside 2 x 4 frame with finishing nails in the back to rest the  back pegboard against, Then sandwiched the back pegboard with another furring strip on this same frame on both sides. Then I put this same 1 x 1 furring strip on the frame in the front on both sides. This was done to create the illusion of pegboard walls. I wish I took a picture of this step b/c it is difficult to explain, but if you have ever use furring strips to elevate pegboard you will understand this concept. Please notice how handy the shelf is above the monitor.

Although this project looks extremely cluttered in the photos, it is actually very organized. The tools I use the most are available for quick access and can be easily put back after use, especially those that get put in a mechanic bag for leaving the apartment. 

A couple of small additions I have done to this project that are worth mentioning:

1. Magnetic strip for holding mini pliers
2. LED work light for added illumination.
3. Cut a hole in the desk frame and added support board underneath for keyboard storage.

I think the final addition to this bench will be a large fluorescent magnifying light that can be articulated over the bench. I also plan to put in a soldering station. 

I hope you enjoyed my recent update to this Instructable. As always questions, comments and suggestions are welcome.



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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    great work bench! The black pegboard was the icing on the cake.
    May I ask where you purchsed the lights? I have a large track light but I love the small one that you used.

    Thanks for the great work!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! I purchased the small light from Harbor Freight. I'm not happy with the light output and it takes batteries that die quickly. I ended up mounting a small fluorescent light later on.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi daleruisky,

    Thanks for the inspiration! ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic build there ZippoPT- very clean and functional! Thanks for the props! I've gotten rid of my shelves underneath and added a rolling tool chest. I found that the shelves just got jammed full of tools and extras.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Sure is! It is for a dremel. I picked it up from amazon for drilling small leads in printed circuit boards. Quickly found that it was cheap and has too much play. Never gets used bc of this.


    5 years ago

    Glad you liked it, acunliffe1. The laptop stand is a great idea! Post a picture in my comments when you are completed- would love to see how it turns out.


    5 years ago

    Love this build! I'm thinking of doing a similar thing in my bedroom with a laptop stand for arduino programming, solder station etc.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    It looks great. If you turn the front legs 90 degrees you will have easier access to the bottom shelf.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Great suggestion Surfer8. I'm sure the outlets would still mount conveniently this way too. I'll keep this in mind if I do a rebuild or another one. Thanks!